The 2017, Atlantic hurricane season was extremely active producing 17 named storms of which 10 became hurricanes with 6 of them categorised as major. Two of these, hurricanes Irma and Maria left a path of unimaginable destruction across the Caribbean. Thousands of residents were displaced, homes and buildings destroyed, lives and livelihoods lost and communications infrastructure obliterated.
On September 6, Irma a powerful category 5 hurricane impacted several islands in the northern Caribbean with Barbuda and St Kitts and Nevis being among the hardest hit. A joint United Nations (UN), EU, World Bank, Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and Eastern Caribbean Central Bank mission visited Antigua and Barbuda from September 26-October 7. The mission aimed to support the Government in undertaking a recovery needs assessment. It concluded that the total damage of the hurricane events for Antigua and Barbuda totaled approximately EC$367.5 million with losses amounting to approximately EC$51.2 million. Recovery needs were estimated at EC$600.1 million. The individual sector that sustained the greatest damage was tourism, accounting for 44% of total damage costs. Following the team’s assessment, agriculture, which was largely limited to the production of fruits and vegetables and the rearing of livestock and poultry for subsistence consumption recorded estimated damages of EC$400,000, losses at EC$1,000,000 and recovery needs at EC$700,000. According to the assessment, 100% of the fisheries sector was affected in Antigua and Barbuda. The total damage for the sector amounted to EC$815,000 while total recovery needs was estimated between EC$500,000 and EC$1,000,000.
Less than 2 weeks later, on 18 September hurricane Maria made landfall as a category 5 hurricane in Dominica. Preliminary assessments on the ground following this storm indicated that the agriculture sector was totally destroyed. According to the Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) conducted by the international community, the agriculture and fisheries sectors were assessed to suffer damages in the vicinity of EC$156 million, and losses to the tune of EC$339 million. The damage to the forestry sector was estimated to be EC$87 million and needs of EC$40 million for recovery.
St Kitts and Nevis was impacted by both weather systems. The damage to the agriculture sector was significant, resulting in the death of livestock, damage to greenhouses and feeder roads, loss of standing crops and equipment. Prime Minister Timothy Harris stated that damage to St Kitts and Nevis was conservatively estimated at EC$53.2 million”.
Over the last 6 months CARDI has been working with the various Ministries of Agriculture and other regional and international agencies to provide the requisite technical guidance, financial support and leadership necessary to kick-start agriculture production in the short term and re-engineer it into resilient sector in the long term.